Click on the Stanyan logo to subscribe to the McKuen Mailing List

A Thought for Today

March not only to your own drummer but to your own syncopation, be you a band of many or one voice soloing, slicing through the silence, a single sound heard ‘round the corner or ‘round the world.


This column doesn't require much by way of explanation. Suffice to say Frank Sinatra was born eighty six years ago today and the face of popular music hasn't been the same since.

As we pause to remember Old Blue Eyes, let's re-visit some of Rod's memories of him beginning with the tribute he penned following Frank's passing in May of 1998.

- Ken, Johannesburg, December 12


I have lost an irreplaceable friend. The Great American Song has lost the greatest lover and best practitioner it ever had. I truly loved Frank Sinatra for his infinite generosity and enormous heart. To me Sinatra the man, father, grandfather and friend eclipsed even his talent as a gifted and natural actor and performer, and the most important, successful and influential singer of this century.

The best American export has always been our music. For more than 50 years Frank Sinatra has made the songs of my country's best songwriters into standards around the world. He has kept alive the works of Kern; Gershwin; Porter; Rodgers, Hart & Hammerstein; Mercer; Cahn; Styne; Berlin; Arlen; Loesser; Warren; McHugh; Schwartz & Dietz, and Ellington. And he has propelled the careers of Jimmy Webb, Paul Simon, Joe Reposo, Jobim and very definitely my own.

Of course Sinatra lives and will always be alive because of his recordings and films. His body of work is without doubt the most comprehensive of any entertainer ever. That is a fact that can not possibly be challenged. Our great grief is eased by the legacy, the gift to us all, of hundreds of documented performances on record, video and film of one of Americas and the worlds great, great talents. It is hard to imagine a world without him, of course it never will be.

In 1990 I wrote "It is rare, if it has ever happened before, that the industry of a single man can tell us so much about our hopes and aspirations; the dreams we dreamed, the things we wished for. . . and the stuff out there that often eluded our grasp. All in the guise of a song. Sinatra remains the patron saint of every popular singer who has opened his mouth since he first opened his. He is the chairman of the board and disenfranchised of all ages."

Frank Sinatra fought fad and fancy, bucked trends by sticking to what he knew and liked best. He survived his major producers, conductors and contemporaries in the vocal field. Because of him The Great American Song will not just survive, but prosper forever.

To his grandchildren, his children and his widow all of us send our love and support and most especially our thanks for helping to keep Frank Sinatra with us for so long. Great lives always seem brief, however long they last. We can ill afford to loose our great explorers, pioneers and inventors. Frank was all three. He invented phrasing and singing on the vowels, he explored lyrics as no one ever did and he was the pioneer of the concept album.

Frank Sinatra was and is a great, good man. Nothing more or less needs saying about him.

-Rod McKuen, 15 May,1998

notable birthdays Madchen Amick o Tracy Austin o Bob Barker o Mayim Bialik o Sheila E. o Emerson Fittipaldi o Gustave Flaubert o Connie Francis o Bridget Hall o Wings Hauser o Ed Koch o Liesbeth List o John Osborne o Cathy Rigby o Edward G. Robinson o Frank Sinatra o Harry Warner o Dionne Warwick o Grover Washington, Jr. o Joe Williams
Rod's random thoughts If you hear the music, join the singing.

When the sand starts singing, no one will hear but us.

Birds don’t sing because they have the answers, they sing because they know the songs.

An Appreciation

Running, jumping, standing still,
Frank Sinatra is the tallest man I know.
Sitting down his feet go dragging through the clouds,
and anyway we heard him one night singing
            "Fly Me to the Moon" from the moon..
After that even though you call him Frank you
wonder if you'll ever earn the right to do so.

He's tall because he stoops to help and bends
to give, and because while going down his own
road he's always had the time cut the underbrush
for those who came along behind him.

Sometimes in turning he falls down
and hardly anybody picks him up but him.
He gets up always taller than he was a day ago.
Meeting him the first time out you know that he
could tear a wall down with his eyes. Later on
you learn he's much too busy building bridges
                                to think about destruction.

Still you're wary. Isn't this the man you've read about
who punches up the press and chews up shadows
like a jackhammer biting into streets? Be careful.
He smiles then. I don't know like who.
                                 Like nobody ever did or will.

You go away that first time thinking maybe you don't want to write songs anymore for anybody else but him.

Another time you meet and talk of trains
                                       and Alec Wilder.
You drink a lot. In the early hours he stays listening to Respighi while you crawl home to bed.
He worries you because he has so much (I don't
mean jet airplanes) and thinks he has so little.

What can you give a man who's given several worlds
of pleasure to as many people? The morning paper.
But wouldn't that deprive the doorman
                                                of his daily honor?

How many Frank Sinatra's do I know? Another one
every day. The one whose gentleness to women
touches on the renaissance. I honestly believe
he's never met a woman yet he thought to be a tramp.

There's the family man concerned about his children.
Helping never pushing. (Good God, his son does not
make records for Reprise.) He's the father who waited
till his eldest made it on her own to sing a song with
her. The only man to make that laughing face
                                        smile on consistently.

Tina's lost her luggage on her way to Bangkok,
and so he spends all Independence Day
calling airports round the world.

The fighter? Hmmm. Christ the public can be mean!
One night while on the town I saw him baited half a dozen times. He smiled and signed his name. Nobody got a bloody nose or his picture in The Daily News.
But I for one would hate to see his eyes turn orange,
even if it is his favorite color. Still you get the feeling
            that when in doubt he beats up on himself.

Who else goes home to Hoboken and makes it back
to California two days and twenty million later.
So he is a businessman. (Remember that and you
              forget his Oscars number two, not one.)

Guts should be his middle name, not Albert.
I think that he invented guts inside and out.

Hearing him announce at fifty "September's quite a time," you're well aware of generation gaps he's pulled together with his hands. Yet something, maybe monkey
glands have kept him more than young at heart.
            His mind's as new as noon tomorrow.
I have it. Jack Daniels must have pickled him circa nineteen-forty-three.

But why does he sing better every day? Why are there
new humble cycles and pride that boasts I did it My Way?
He did you know. We have every one of us doing it his way to prove it. He invented singing, and every time
                            he sings he's giving lessons.

It comes to this. Whatever kind of man he is,
                 whoever made us made just one of him.

He digs Jilly more than diamonds, his country well enough to be concerned that hate might take the place
of love one unsuspecting night. He prizes love
but wouldn't be caught dead admitting it aloud,
except in love songs. And he's a man you have to love.
I leave the reasons up to you. I've set down some of
those I have in the pages printed here and Sinatra
sings these songs with love. Almost as though
he owned them. I guess he does now, dammit.

He owns what he touches because he never leaves
a thing he comes in contact with unchanged. But as
any different drummer, Sinatra is a man alone.

Sometimes I think he laughs to keep from crying.
Forget it. I'm no Sigmund Freud. I know a few things only. Today I know a man hidden in the California hills
spoiled for good because another man he loved gave new dimensions to his children. My children are my songs
and those within this album all have brand new shoes.

- from "A Man Alone", 1969

© 1969, 1970, 1986, 1998, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
Want to comment on today's Flight Plan?
Send e-mail to Rod McKuen or post a message at the Rod McKuen Message Center
home page   today's flight plan   flight plan archives   search this site   site map